For the first time since 1989, BMW has revived its upscale 6-series class of cars and has done so with the level of passion, performance and panache one would expect from this legendary automaker.
The series name connotes BMW's top-of-the-line two-door vehicle, a class of car designed to compete with BMW's sedans in terms of power and mechanics—but in a package with more sex appeal.
The new 6-series comes in two models, the 645Ci Coupe and 645Ci Convertible. We, of course, opted for the drop-top, because it just seems so fundamentally right when you have 325 horsepower under your right foot and a cozy cabin that feels like a bank vault. The 645Ci combines dazzling design with outstanding build quality for spectacular results. In short, this is a car meant for world-class levels of elegant fun.
Like all of its Bavarian siblings, the 645Ci delivers a delicious driving experience. The steering is perfectly weighted, and the car's cornering capabilities are beyond the limits of all but the most experienced drivers.
Standard are eighteen-inch wheels carrying 245/45R-18 all-season run-flat radials that deliver admirable levels of adhesion. One can also opt for the sport package, which comes with 245/40R-19s up front and steamroller-size 275/35R-19s in the rear—a combination that ups the alreadyimpressive handling ante even further.
You can push the 645Ci very hard and it always feels stable—you'll find neither vibration nor the harshness endemic to the chassis settings of some high-performance cars. "Balance" is the operative word here. The engine, transmission, chassis and brakes all work together in harmony.
Our test model had a six-speed manual gearbox, one of three available six-speed transmissions—the other two being a conventional automatic and BMW's Formula 1-style clutchless sequential manual that shifts with steering-wheel-mounted paddles. Our six-speed shifted flawlessly.
Straight-line performance is excellent, too, thanks to BMW's outstanding 4.4-liter V-8, a jewel of an engine that delivers all 325 horsepower in a smooth, progressive flow of power. Again, balance is key: The engine is strong through the entire rev range, unlike some high-performance motors that have strong peaks and deep valleys. Acceleration from zero to 60 m.p.h. takes a mere six seconds flat, with top speed electronically limited to 149 miles per hour.
BMW has come under intense scrutiny in recent years for two perceived design flaws: its exterior styling and its controversial iDrive system—a round knob/joystick mounted on the center console that controls the car's audio, climate, communications and navigation systems.
Both are nonissues in the 645Ci. The styling is dead-on what a car in this class should look like: bold and aristocratic, never silly or pretentious. The interior is classic BMW, with sound ergonomics and understated design. And the iDrive system, standard in the 645Ci, somehow seems more at home and easier to use than it does in BMW's 7-series sedans.
Special points are awarded for the leather-covered, twelve-way powermemory seats, which hold you as securely as your mother's arms—no mean feat if you're as big as I am. Three different memory settings control the seat's backrest and cushion as well as the exterior mirrors and the steering column.
All told, there's an awful lot to like about this car, especially for drivers who enjoy traveling with alacrity. BMW has revived the 6-series the right way—by building a vehicle that's spirited, sophisticated and, most important, enormously satisfying to drive.
Scorecard BMW 645Ci CONVERTIBLE
PRICE/AS TESTED: $76,300/$82,179
ENGINE: 4.4-liter V-8
MPG: 15 city/23 highway
TORQUE: 330 foot-pounds
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual, sequential manual or automatic
ZERO TO 60 MPH: 6 seconds
TOP SPEED: 149 m.p.h.